A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 451 pages of information about A History of English Romanticism in the Nineteenth Century.

[26] “The English Romantic critics did not form a school.  Like everything else in the English Romantic movement, its criticism was individual, isolated, sporadic, unsystematised.  It had no official mouthpiece, like Sainte-Beuve and the Globe; its members formed no compact phalanx like that which, towards the close of our period, threw itself upon the ‘classiques’ of Paris.  Nor did they, with the one exception of Coleridge, approach the Romantic critics of Germany in range of ideas, in grasp of the larger significance of their own movement.  It was only in Germany that the ideas implicit in the great poetic revival were explicitly thought out in all their many-sided bearing upon society, history, philosophy, religion; and that the problem of criticism, in particular, was presented in its full depth and richness of meaning. . . .  As English Romanticism achieved greater things on its creative than on its critical side, so its criticism was more remarkable on that side which is akin to creation—­in the subtle appreciation of literary quality—­than in the analysis of the principles on which its appreciation was founded.” (C.  H. Herford:  “The Age of Wordsworth,” p. 50).

[27] See “Biographia Literaria.” chap. i.  “From the common opinion that the English style attained its greatest perfection in and about Queen Anne’s reign, I altogether dissent.” (Lecture “On Style,” March 13, 1818).

[28] See vol. i., p. 421 ff.

CHAPTER III.

Keats, Leigh Hunt, and the Dante Revival.

In the interchange of literary wares between England and Germany during the last years of the eighteenth century, it is observable that the English romantics went no further back than to their own contemporaries for their knowledge of the Deutsche Vergangenheit.  They translated or imitated robber tragedies, chivalry tales, and ghost ballads from the modern restorers of the Teutonic Mittelalter; but they made no draughts upon the original storehouse of German mediaeval poetry.  There was no such reciprocity as yet between England and the Latin countries.  French romanticism dates, at the earliest, from Chateaubriand’s “Genie du Christianisme” (1802), and hardly made itself felt as a definite force, even in France, before Victor Hugo’s “Cromwell” (1828).  But in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Italy, Spain, and France began to contribute material to the English movement in the shape of translations like Cary’s “Divine Comedy” (1814), Lockhart’s “Spanish Ballads” (1824); Southey’s “Amadis of Gaul” (1803), “Palmerin of England” (1807), and “The Chronicle of the Cid” (1808); and Rose’s[1] “Partenopex of Blois” (1807).  By far the most influential of these was Cary’s “Dante.”

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